Co-operation talks point of contention at joint council

Ashley Thompson
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Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley looks over at West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee as co-operation talks heat up at a joint council meeting March 27.

What could have been a cause for celebration for local politicians is now a touchy subject following a tense joint council meeting in Windsor.  

The agenda set for the March 27 meeting of the Windsor, West Hants and Hantsport councils called for a discussion on joint co-operation followed by the signing of a Joint Inter-municipal Co-operation Protocol.

The protocol has been a work in progress since the three councils participated in an inter-municipal co-operation workshop last fall.

It was largely believed the evening could end with representatives of each council signing their names to the joint document.

That’s not quite how things played out.

 

Windsor letter sparks concerns

Tension started to build between West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee and Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley, who chaired the joint council meeting, early in the joint co-operation discussion.

Dauphinee wanted to talk about a letter the Town of Windsor sent to Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey, but Beazley felt joint council might not be an appropriate forum for the discussion.

“I didn’t add this to the agenda because it came under joint co-operation talks,” Dauphinee said.

The letter, dated March 18, asks for the minister’s support as the Town of Windsor attempts to lead the way in building a stronger economy.

“Our town has a promising future; however, our futures can be so much brighter as one united community… one council… one voice. We believe our economic and social potential can only be achieved working as one municipal unit, taking advantage of every efficiency and every opportunity,” the letter, signed by Beazley, reads.

The letter, requesting a follow-up meeting between Furey and the Town of Windsor, alludes to the possibility of annexation or amalgamation within the region by noting that Windsor’s Municipal Planning Strategy was amended in July 2012.

“We would be open to exploring any/all options for change, even those options which could involve application to the NSUARB for dissolution, with the ultimate goal of doing everything we can to build a new economy for a combined Windsor/Hantsport/West Hants… the new Avon Region,” the letter concludes.

 

To discuss or not discuss the letter

Dauphinee noted that while a copy of the letter, drafted in camera as a “legal matter” during a March 18 committee of the whole meeting, was sent to the Town of Hantsport, the Municipality of West Hants had to request a copy after learning such a letter existed.

Before Dauphinee could elaborate, Beazley knocked the gavel down, and asked the warden to explain why he wanted to talk about the letter at joint council.

“I’m not even sure how it fits in to tell you the truth,” the mayor said.

Dauphinee argued that he felt the letter touches on topics that are relevant in joint co-operation discussions.

Beazley chose to let the group decide if the discussion would continue. The council members were asked to read the letter and weigh in on whether it was pertinent to the discussion.

Hantsport councillors Faye Hill, Shannon Cunningham and Paul Morton were absent as were West Hants councillors Reed Allenand Randy Matheson.

Coun. Shirley Pineo, of West Hants, noted that the letter lists dissolution as an option, and asked if the Town of Windsor is considering giving up its charter.

Beazley said Windsor’s town council wants to discuss all of their options with the minister.

 

Talks turn to amalgamation

Gary Cochrane, deputy warden for the Municipality of West Hants, noted that Coun. Scott Geddes, of Windsor, invited the table to talk about amalgamation earlier in the conversation, and he’d like to know what is being discussed by neighbouring councils before entering into an inter-municipal agreement with them.

“It almost looks like it’s going to try be forced upon us. That’s not what the residents want,” Cochrane said.

Geddes said he’s been openly touting amalgamation as the answer to the region’s economic problems for five years before he was elected to council.

“I have no problem saying that. I believe it is the future of our region. I believe that we spend way too much of our time fighting over ridiculous issues,” he said, listing fire services, libraries and recreation as examples.

Geddes stressed that the current governance model is not working.

“The reality is on the outside world we have been viewed as dysfunctional,” he said.

Coun. Jennifer Daniels, of West Hants, emphasized that citizens must be provided with facts that will help them decide how they want their councils to proceed.

“We can’t speak on behalf of our residents unless we hear from our residents,” said Daniels.

She said it is time to push past the “decades of in-fighting” to come up with a solution that will result in attractive cost savings for businesses and residents.

Harold Bulger, deputy mayor for the Town of Hantsport, suggested the councils ask to sit down with the municipal relations minister together. He added that they are “not going to do themselves or their residents any good by trying to rush this decision.”

 

Dauphinee shares his take on co-operation

Dauphinee attempted to redirect the conversation to the process through which the Town of Windsor drafted the letter to the provincial government during a closed meeting.

Once again, Beazley interjected and asked if the subject was relevant to joint council.

“I’ll go one step further,” Dauphinee responded.

“The mayor of Hantsport, he was very polite. He text me early one morning and asked, could he have a meeting with me?”

The two met and Hantsport Mayor Rob Zwicker informed Dauphinee the Town of Hantsport is considering dissolution.

“They made us aware. I call that working together,” said Dauphinee.

“That didn’t happen between you, Mr. Mayor. I know you have my phone numbers because we’ve talked before.”

Beazley stressed that the letter does not say the Town of Windsor plans to dissolve.

“Could you point out in this letter where we’re saying we’re going to dissolution? Why would I call you and tell you we’re going to dissolution when this letter states nothing of that nature?”

Dauphinee added the Joint Inter-municipal Co-operation Protocol is based on trust.

“I think you are blowing this way out of proportion as far as what this letter is asking the minister,” Beazley replied.

Dauphinee expressed concern that West Hants has been excluded from conversations that would impact their residents.

“Hantsport and Windsor… have had talks about Mount Denson and Falmouth and Windsor and Hantsport joining. We need to know. That’s part of our municipal unit,” he said.

 

Warden refuses to sign co-operation agreement

Dauphinee announced that he would not sign the Joint Inter-municipal Co-operation Protocol based on the way he learned about the letter in question, and the conversations that followed.

He added that Cochrane could sign the letter in his place as deputy warden if he saw fit to do so.

Daniels argued that the protocol was the result of a positive inter-municipal workshop, staff meetings and the three CAOs working together.

“I do not see any problem in this protocol. I don’t see the words amalgamation — I’ll say it again — I don’t see the word annexation. I just see a working principle here that we are going to co-operate together and, by signing it, we are making an honest effort.”

Geddes attempted to clarify what the letter was meant to accomplish.

“There is no agenda. There is no ulterior motive here other than the councillors for the Town of Windsor to gather more information from the minister as to what our options are and how various options work. We are simply trying to educate ourselves. That’s it,” he said.

Dauphinee tried to respond, but was interrupted by the mayor’s gavel. Beazley said he was following up with Daniels.

“If we can’t talk there’s no sense in having joint council meetings, Mr. Chairman,” said Dauphinee.

Beazley proceeded to ask the group what they thought of the proposed protocol before them.

Coun. Laurie Murley, of Windsor, moved that they recommend the councils accept the document, have representatives from each council sign it, and “show all that we are willing to work together moving forward.”

The motion passed, with Dauphinee voting in opposition.

“I won’t be signing. I’ll take it back to our council,” he said.

Dauphinee shared his displeasure with being interrupted multiple times throughout the meeting. He ultimately walked out, followed by Coun. Tom Brown, prior to the subsequent regional enterprise network (REN) discussion. Pineo had already walked out of the meeting when the warden was interrupted earlier in the conversation.

The warden had one last message for Windsor’s mayor on his way out of the meeting.

“You’ll never catch me cutting you off.”

 

Organizations: Municipality of West Hants, Town of Windsor, Town of Hantsport

Geographic location: Windsor, Hantsport, Hants Mount Denson Falmouth West Hants Hants County Nova Scotia Town of Windsor

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • John Brown
    April 01, 2014 - 10:33

    Nova Scotia is over governed and over taxed. The province has a population slightly larger than the City of Ottawa but the comparison in municipal governments is staggering. Ottawa has one mayor and 23 councilors. Nova Scotia has 50+ mayors/wardens, 50+ deputy mayors/wardens and I lost count at over 200 councilors. The total taxpayer cost for Ottawa's municipal government salary is around $2.2 million per year while I lost count with Nova Scotia's when I hit $8.6 million (published in 2008 so I suspect its higher now).

  • RA
    March 30, 2014 - 18:58

    Amalgamation, a word that expresses cooperative joining of territories. To Annex, it is more of a proclamation of sovereignty of somebody’s lands outside of it’s own. It is sad to see such an exchange take place during a meeting of cooperation. The people involved here are quite intelligent in my opinion, but at the same time may be a bit full of themselves. It probably is not that great feeling to be Mayors of failing towns. Maybe to go down in history as the last Mayors. I would like to let you know that as a long term resident of the area, it’s not your fault. Your predecessor were the ones to highly tax and not allow new growth in the town of Windsor. The tax base of Windsor in the past was solid, they didn’t need growth to sustain what they had. So they just said to keep it the way it is. The young people began to move, the community of Windsor began to age, the properties began to crumble and the tax base could no longer support the extravagant living the community was use to. Hantsport also had a Council that would not allow growth, a dry town it was, one of the last strong holds to defy the evil fire water. Hantsport’s failure was more of economic downfall and poor management of the three large businesses of the town. If they had been able to continue to operate, Hantsport would be just fine. West Hants on the other hand has overcome, survived and prospered. The lower taxes made it more appealing to small business as well as residential growth. I think that the man who lives in a house with broken glass should not bang his gavel so hard. He should instead hold out his hand and join as a family to the ones who are keeping this area afloat. The residents of Windsor and Hantsport may have to learn to live like the people of West Hants, but in doing so, your taxes will be lower and you will have growth and a long future.

  • angus g riley
    March 30, 2014 - 12:01

    Sounds like the whole powers to be should be referred to D.Phil. The Simpsons should be hired as consultants. and I hear there(satirically) a new medical condition prevalent in people involved in politics.See if you can figure what it is.I call it IAS.

  • Mayor Paul Beazley
    March 30, 2014 - 11:20

    I appreciate the comments of all...whether in agreement or not. As a point of fact, I and the Town have been very vocal, active, and upfront for the past 5 years in the fight for municipal reform in the Province and in Hants County...our position should not come as a surprise to anyone at this stage. We have been pushing hard at all levels to effect necessary change. The Ivany Report - Building a New Economy, is clear on this issue, and the Town will continue to push hard for municipal reform for the greater good of Windsor, Hantsport, Hants County and the province as a whole. Times have changed and I believe we need to be willing to change with it.

  • Kevin Guptell
    March 30, 2014 - 07:48

    Just a reminder, Windsor and Hantsport are Broke, their taxes are putting them out of a competitive position for growth.....Both units are either unable or unwilling to change. West Hants however is running in the Black and will continue to do so. I thin Windsor has an agenda to beef up their tax base by getting TMP and Falmouth....I truly believe that both towns would be very much welcome to join West Hants and let them fix their issues and make taxes easier to handle and more economic growth for the region. Mr. Beasley I don't trust you, sorry if that hurts but you ran for office. Mr. Zwicker has the best interest of Hantsport in his dealings, Mr. Dauphinae who I don't always agree with does and will have the best interest of the many voters of West Hants, from Mt. Denson, to the Vaughans to the Shore and all points in between. Don't let them run you Ritchard you have my support to run the county as a Business not a political unit.

  • Leah Rissesco
    March 29, 2014 - 17:00

    Maybe Vaughan should chuck in with Chester. I no longer feel it's a situation of "Better the Devil you know." I'm just sick of it all. I would love to know what the municipality has been doing with all the exorbitant taxes they have been collecting from this area. My assessed value has risen nearly by half in just five years. It's a hundred year old farm house, with very few upgrades. But because we had development shoved down our throats we get to pay up for supportive services that keep diminishing by the day. Yet the municipality gets more and more taxes from this area. The municipality are the ones who have to be made accountable for the use or misuse of taxes. Like a fire service estimate????

  • George Pineo
    March 29, 2014 - 13:46

    Just when you hope our politicians are acting in our best interest and it happens again. How can you have trust and openness between municipal units when one goes tries to sneak around and not be honest with their intentions. The town has to understand that they can't try to stab the people of the municipality in the back and get away with it. I am glad i don't live in Falmouth or Mt Denson. There goes there taxes higher and higher based on how inept the town of Windsor has been with taxpayers money. Not only that, it will probably drive the rest of the municipalities taxes up so it can cover it's obligations. I ask all the read this comment will write, e-mail or call their councilor and express their displeasure on this issue. With alot of other areas of the province amalgamating into municipalities NOT annexing land from them. This is another sign of how the town of Windsor just does not understand how to properly use tax payers money.

    • Frank Smith
      April 02, 2014 - 09:50

      George Pineo: Is this your opinion or that of your mother's?

    • george pineo
      April 03, 2014 - 10:03

      No Frank Smith. It is NOT My mother's comment. I made my statement and I stick with it. Also I at least have the guts to speak my mind and use my name so people who has something to say. I wish others would do they same.

  • Dave Tremblay
    March 29, 2014 - 13:43

    And there lies the problem. We need both the Maoyor of Windsor and the Municipal Warden to take their egos out of the game and get on with doing what is right for the communities.

  • My two cents...
    March 29, 2014 - 13:34

    I am embarrassed by West Hants Council as a whole, and the few voices of reason tend to be overshadowed by those with outdated and out-of-touch thinking. I agree with Counsellor Daniels that the residents need to be consulted before Council decides to speak on our behalf about these issues. My vote: amalgamate sooner than later and let the tax-payer vote on our new representatives. It will be the biggest voter turnout ever, I predict.

    • citizen2
      March 30, 2014 - 08:48

      Be careful what you ask for. West Hants population is more than four times than Windsor and the NEW? council would have four times the representation.

    • Jason Tucker
      March 30, 2014 - 14:49

      I agree completely. Amalgamation is the only way forward. It is an opportunity to improve our whole region and eliminate these ridiculous power squabbles. I don't care who proposes it, only that it happens sooner rather than later.

    • John
      March 31, 2014 - 14:18

      Windsor Mayor should be ashamed. Open and tranparent? You don't send letters involving other municipalities without including them. How dare you. Maybe a reduction in a few senior salaries in the town of Windsor would help their financial picture and oh yes, their operating cost. But do we really know if those numbers are correct like the Libary. West Hants stand your ground. Contact Mark Furey and express your concerns with lack of communication. Windsor is trying to get something passed without West Hants being there. Shame on you. I don't want to be part of Windsor.

    • Frank Smith
      April 02, 2014 - 09:46

      John: The Town of Windsor has made this no secret and has tried time and time again to get West Hants to come to the table. The Warden is constantly wanting to impose conditions on their meetings. Oh, and the Windsor Mayor has the right to an orderly meeting, especially if this letter wasn't even on the agenda. Working together will get us further than working in opposite directions.